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Watching your baby grow, learn and explore is a fantastic experience, but it can also be nerve-wracking. Even before they stand up and walk on their own two feet, it seems your previously safe-as-houses home magically transforms into a minefield of potential hazards. Here’s our handy guide on how to toddler-proof your house. Many parents say an excellent place to start is getting down on your hands and knees and seeing life from their perspective. But before that, let’s start with the basics.
Bath time should be fun, but it can be dangerous without care. To avoid burns and scalds, always run cold water into the bath before adding hot. You can do the elbow check but buying a tub and bedroom thermometer takes out the guesswork. Never leave your baby (or toddler) alone in the bath, even if an older sibling is with them. And once you’ve taken them out, drain the tub immediately. Even 5cm of water can be a drowning hazard. And naturally, when summer and holidays come around, you should always treat paddling and swimming pools with caution!
There can be no danger of your little one rolling off the table or bed if you constantly change them on the floor. Make sure nappy bags are kept well away from reaching hands because they are a genuine suffocation hazard. Duvets and pillows are an additional suffocation danger and should not be used with babies under a year old. And, if you use a sling, always make sure the baby has a clear airway.
Microwaving (bottles especially) can be a burn hazard because the contents can overheat in a couple of seconds. Always check the temperature before feeding. In general, the kitchen is probably the most dangerous room in the house, with hot panhandles, kettle cables hanging off counters, cleaning products under the sink etc. Be careful of cups of tea and coffee, which can burn young, tender skin. Once your little one starts crawling, you need to get locks on drawers, cupboards and doors – you don’t want keys or wallets disappearing into the oven, washing machine or even down the loo!
Gates and guards are an essential piece of kit for any family home, even before they start walking. It’s incredible how fast that tummy shuffle can be! Secure the top and bottom of stairs, block around fires and cut off any room that you think baby best not go into. Another aspect of stair safety is the gaps in bannisters. You do not want your toddler to get wedged between handrails, and when carrying baby, upstairs or around the house, be extra careful because you have a precious load there. If you get a baby walker, they must conform to Standard BS EN 1273: 2005. Open fires are hugely hazardous, and being firm about what they can and cannot touch is an excellent early lesson to teach. General fire safety is crucial – matches, cigarettes and chip pans are the likely candidates for accidents.
Keep low furniture away from windows, and keep windows locked. Attach protectors on corners of potentially dangerous furniture, such as coffee tables. Tidy and secure TV cables, and be aware of the potential of broken glass. Photo frames are often forgotten about. Either put them well out of reach or cover the glass with a protective film.
Reins cause many arguments in the parenting world. Some love them and their ability to let your toddler roam with relative freedom. Others see it as a form of leashing and avoid it altogether. It’s totally up to you to make an informed decision.
You should identify stinging nettles (and dock leaves) early in the garden. There are poisonous plants in the garden – daffodil bulbs, snowdrops, hemlock, deadly nightshade, yew, mistletoe – sometimes it’s their sap, sometimes their berries, so it’s best to say no to eating anything in the garden! Giant hogweed grows over 5 metres tall on our footpaths and riverbanks and should be avoided as it causes severe burns and blisters when it comes in contact with skin. Bees, wasps, ticks, mosquitos, midges, horse flies, some ants and caterpillars are all potential hazards too, for children and adults alike but with a bit of caution, playing the garden is fun and games!